Project dates : 9 April 2018 – 18 October 2018


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The project

The w-RAP project created a series of musical-theatre works of the same name. Composed by and under Karen Wimhurst’s guidance, they explore the story of plastics through music played on plastic musical instruments, including a rhythmic element created from wrapping materials. Inspiration for the work was gathered during a residency undertaken by the composer at MoDiP during the exhibition Polyphonic: music through plastics. More information about the composer can be found on the associated residency page.


w-RAP was the second in our series of MoDiP’s artists’ residencies. It aimed to:

  • Stimulate the composer’s creativity through engagement with MoDiP’s collection and thus contribute to her development.
  • Engage young people creatively with plastics in an experimental multiplatform artistic experience.
  • Foster debate on plastics and the planet’s future with new audiences.

Wider engagement

The project led to:

  • Workshops with 183 children from five Dorset primary schools at which they made and played bassoons out of plastic bottles. The flavour of these workshops was captured in a video by Lizzie Sykes.
  • Workshops with 40 young people aged between 12 and 18 from Ferndown Upper School at which they developed the words and music for w-RAP one.
  • Lecture on plastics contribution to sustainability by Susan Lambert as a preliminary to the performance of w-RAP at the Lighthouse, 26 September 2018, followed, after the performance, by a lively debate.


There are three outputs, which recycle sounds and concepts between each other:

  • w-RAP one: a parade of sound for a synthetic century,  created and performed by pupils from Ferndown Upper School, Arts University Bournemouth, 4 July 2018.
  • w-RAP two: a plastics serenade for a synthetic century, written by Karen Wimhurst, directed by Katharine Piercey, performed by soprano Brittany Soriano, trumpeter Elaine Close and vinyl Ole Rudd  with voice-overs by Fraser Wilson,the Sherling Studio, Lighthouse Poole, 26 September, 2018.
  • w-RAP three: a poetic mapping of a synthetic century, a collage of soundscapes from w-RAP one and two, with the script, a poem, spoken by the composer, Karen Wimhurst.  w-RAP three has also been recorded on vinyl, one pressing of which will be kept in pristine condition at MoDiP in perpetuity.

MoDiP would like to thank the composer for presenting the issues that surround plastics in a variety of ways that have engaged people with them, who would not necessarily visit the museum itself. We would also like to thank the sponsors: Arts Council England, Soundstorm, lead partner for the Bournemouth & Poole Music Education Hub, and the Cultural Hub, for making the project possible.

w-RAP reworked as Synthetica: a toxic enchantment

w-RAP was subsequently reworked as Synthetica: a toxic enchantment and performed at the Tête à Tête festival, London, August 2019. Bill Bankes Jones, Tête à Tête's Artistic Director said: 'We were extremely pleased to host Synthetica... It was a great addition to our programme… innovative, thought provoking, a great score and a virtuosic cast.' It was Frances Lynch of Electric Voice Theatre's favourite opera in the festival: '... cutting edge, provocative, with a truly exciting score and great live performances... It stood out as an opera for our times and deserves a wide audience.'

We are grateful that the opera received further support from Arts Council England. The original purpose was to enable the opera to tour however, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, that has not been possible. Instead the opera has been reinvented online complemented by learning resources. Synthetica opera online will shortly be premiered and made available through this website.

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